“… to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” — Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods”
That epigraph is engraved on the wall outside the Unitarian church where I used to go to meditate, at the entrance to a beautiful little garden which is currently under repair. I hope to go there again sometime, either to mediate or to visit the garden, but I don’t know if I will any time soon. Life is so busy these days, there is barely time to write, or even think. In a rare moment of extended reflection on Sunday morning, I wrote the following brief paragraph.
If you strip away all the dressing — tradition, ritual, community, technology — none of which can offer absolute security or salvation, only comfort (and each of which, easily taken to extremes, become oppression) what we have of relevant philosophy is the same as what an elephant has, or a dolphin, or a gorilla. We love things, often others like ourselves, and inevitably they die. We might even come to love ourselves, knowing we also will die. It is cold and hard, this knowing, almost intolerable. Well, the dying is intolerable; the loving is rather sweet. So those are the two strands, love and death, which can’t be unwoven. Unlike asceticism, which operates by denying love; or most conventional modern religions, which operate by denying death; or hedonism, which operates by denying the existence of others as being equal in gravity to our own existence, the view stated above is not a philosophy, only a wound, bound up with its cure, which is one and the same as a treasure, bound up with its thief. It must be allowed to remain an open wound, and not be tricked into becoming a philosophy, because attempting to heal it over with fine words would alienate the cure within it, which can only cure that which is without hope. As Paul wrote, three remain, faith, hope and love, but only one endures. That passage is usually read as aspirational, or inspirational, instead of a statement of fact, or even resignation.